As Prepared Remarks for Chargé d’Affaires a.i. Steven Koutsis
U.S. Embassy Conakry, INL, IOM – PPE Handover Ceremony
IOM Guinea Headquarters | October 9, 2020 | 10:00AM-12:00PM
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen,
First and foremost, I would like to thank his excellency, Minister Camara for joining us today, as well as our implementing partner the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and Madame Fatou Diallo Ndiaye. I am pleased to be here celebrating the delivery of these critical supplies and equipment that will help strengthen law enforcement and public health coordinated preparedness for and in response to future epidemics in Guinea. The United States is a long-standing partner of the Guinean people and I’m here to reaffirm our unmatched commitment over the past sixty-two years.
The United States remains steadfast in its commitment to the Guinean people, and the United States remains Guinea’s partner of choice. Today’s donation of close to ninety thousand dollars of personal protective equipment (PPE) and office materials to support Guinea’s response to the Covid-19 crisis and future epidemics stands as a testament to our unwavering support. Our donation includes tech equipment, disposable protective suits, disposable waterproof aprons, disposable medical-grade rubber gloves, and N-95 and other disposable face masks.
Faced with the persistence of community transmission of COVID-19, the United States through the Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Department of Defense and the National Institute of Health (NIH), has provided nearly $5 million to support Guinea in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic and to ensure the continuity of essential and routine care.
While our partnership and cooperation in the fight against COVID-19 has been resolute, our close relationship did not begin with this pandemic. In fact, the United States has worked in partnership with Guinea since the 1960s. The truth is we have consistently shown our commitment to the Guinean people particularly in the area of health.
As the largest bilateral donor to the health sector in Guinea, with more than three hundred seventy million dollars invested in the health sector over the past twenty years, the United States is at the forefront of working hand in hand with Guineans to support improvements in the local health systems. Our support includes field epidemiology, surveillance, emergency management and laboratory strengthening; HIV/AIDS testing with the Guinean military and the donation of a mobile laboratory; community health volunteers; Emerging Epidemic Virus Research Training and laboratory capacity; as well as health governance and drug supply chain management to name a few.
Additionally, the United States played an essential role in the Ebola Response that led to a stronger surveillance, detection and response system that is now being used to confront the COVID-19 outbreak. Throughout the years, we’ve focused on community level surveillance, veterinary and human lab diagnostics strengthening at the Viral Hemorrhagic Fever Laboratory including equipment and training on Ebola, rabies, polio, and yellow-fever, as well as research on bats as a host for infectious diseases. The United States has also supported strengthening data collection; social and behavior change communications related to disease prevention including preventing Ebola.
This support has translated directly into gains for Guinea’s COVID-19 response. At the beginning of the response, Guinea had the human and technical capacity, and equipment necessary to jumpstart testing and contact tracing as soon as the first case was detected. Specifically, our support ensured that Guinea had: A functioning health information system, trained, accredited laboratory technicians, state of the art lab equipment including enough Polymerase Chain Reaction machines to test for COVID-19, risk communication platforms and processes and procedures to support health facilities.
I’d be remiss not to mention the important role that our Peace Corps staff played in 2014 following the Ebola virus crisis. Although our volunteers were evacuated from Guinea as a precautionary measure, our Peace Corps staff remained engaged in the effort to protect Guineans by supporting the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the fight against the Ebola virus. Peace Corps staff trained 995 local Guineans from all regions of the country to become community health educators. Those trainers in turn directly trained 295,000 Guineans on the basics of Ebola virus disease and how to prevent its spread.
Peace Corps’ efforts to strengthen community health workers in critical public health practices provided a solid basis upon which key behavior changes, essential for combatting COVID-19, are possible in 2020. The Ebola experience influenced the redesign of the Peace Corps Guinea’s public health program and laid the foundation for volunteers when they returned in January 2016 to support community groups in disseminating public health information campaigns regarding malaria, vaccines, vitamin A and deworming. Those same volunteers provided health center workers with data management training and coaching.
With basic information about COVID-19 in the weeks leading up to the March 2020 evacuation of all volunteers from Guinea, several volunteers were busy conducting hand washing trainings with their community members to promote measures to the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Beyond our support on infection prevention and control of infectious diseases, the U.S also has been a key contributor in Guinea’s advancement in food security and nutrition as well as malaria and maternal and child health. For example, USAID completed a successful seven-year lending program in the agriculture sector in support of food security and nutrition. In FY2019 alone, $2.3 million in lending was disbursed while leveraging private sector capital disbursed at a ratio of six to one. Ladies and gentlemen, these aren’t just numbers, but an undeniable representation of lives changed for the better because of our longstanding commitment to the people of Guinea.
Furthermore, through the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative, we support malaria prevention and control activities in 14 out of the 33 prefectures in Guinea as well as the 5 communes of Conakry in coordination with the Global Fund, which supports these activities in the remaining 19 prefectures. In fact, the U.S. government purchases and distributes long-lasting insecticide-treated mosquito nets; implements annual seasonal malaria treatment of children under five years old; and improves malaria diagnostics through the purchase and deployment of rapid-diagnostic tests and laboratory support.
Over the past six decades, the United States has remained committed and consistent in its partnership with the Guinean people.
Ladies and gentlemen, Minister Camara, it is my sincere hope that, together, our shared partnership in health will result in a more prosperous Guinea. Thank you.